Safety and Roof Access Hatches

What are Roof Access Hatches?

Many roofs, especially low sloped roofs, are accessed via a fixed ladder or stairway leading to a roof hatch or scuttle. Most hatches are equipped with a hinged lid that has pistons or springs to assist in opening the lid along with a locking mechanism to keep it open. These fixed ladders and hatchways make climbing onto a roof more convenient than using an extension ladder.

Are there Safety Issues with Roof Access Hatches?

Unfortunately, there are two unique safety issues in using a hatchway type roof access system. Once at the top of the ladder, there is nothing to grab onto to assist in climbing from the ladder onto the roof. Obviously, the fixed ladder can’t extend above the hatch lid. Once on the roof, the hatch lid is left open while the individual is completing their task. Lids are not closed for fear of being accidentally locked on the roof.


How do I Mitigate These Safety Issues?

For many years, the only product available to help solve problem (1) was attaching a ladder post to the ladder. Once at the top of the ladder, the post is extended and locked in place. When descending the ladder and after the hatch lid is closed, the post is retracted into its sleeve. The problem with a ladder post is that it actually obstructs the ladder, shifts the body’s center of gravity backwards in the wrong direction and requires that a hand be removed from the ladder to engage and disengage the device. The ladder post solves one problem and creates another.


OSHA Standards and Roof Hatch Safety

There were no products to solve problem (2). Also, what the roofing industry did not know until a ruling made July 12, 2000 by Richard Fairfax, Directorate of OSHA, that according to Standard Numbers 1910.23(c)(7); 1910.23, “Open roof hatches should be protected: grab bars are not required at hatch exits”. To solve safety issue (2) and to satisfy this OSHA requirement to protect the open roof, a railing system was developed and patented by Hal Swindell, Partner in Safety Rail Source. An added bonus from Hal’s railing system is that it acts as a substantial grab bar to solve safety issue (1). CentiMark can work in partnership with Safety Rail Source in determining the proper railing system for your roof hatch and determining the proper installation of the system to satisfy the OSHA Standards.  

In our upcoming article Safe Roof Series (Part 5), we will explain the types of roof hatch railings and their applications.

Our CentiMark roofing specialists have experience in proper and safe installation of all types of roof hatches. Click here to learn more about CentiMark’s Safety Program: